‘Add To or Take Away’ what from what?
As we travel down the road of our faith walk, there are many questions that present themselves along the way that may not seem to have a cut-and-dried, ‘chapter and verse’ answer. And yet, as we study the Scriptures under the tutelage of the Holy Spirit, things can become clear under the light of His presence and the dots begin to ‘connect themselves’. No, we are not advocating ‘reading between the lines’. For since there is nothing ‘between the lines’, that leaves the door open for just about anything to wander in, if you get our drift. But one of those sets of questions that comes up from time to time falls under the heading of ‘Adding to and taking from’.
Adding to or taking away what from what? That might not sound like good grammar, but it is a very legitimate question. Is it ok to keep celebrations that are not expressly commanded? Is it a sin to observe Purim? What about Channukah? Is 4th of July and Thanksgiving evil? What about the secular ‘new year’? Ignoring a birthday or anniversary can cause bodily harm, and what about Mother’s Day and Father’s Day? And of course, the biggie, is it wrong to worship on Sunday? What CAN I do and what actually constitutes, from a Biblically contextual perspective, ‘adding to and taking from’? Well, let’s look at What The Word Says.
First, let’s find the passages that give us this directive. In Deut. 12:22, Moses is giving last minute instructions and reminders to the people of Israel before they enter the Land of promise. He makes this emphatic statement – ‘whatsoever I have commanded you, do it; adding nothing to it nor taking anything away.’ ‘Add to or take from’ what? It should be clear from the passage the subject that is not to be ‘added to or diminished’ is the body of commandments given by God through Moses. Now we see a similar edict in the book of the Revelation, chapter 22, verses 18-19. But as we read this passage, we realize it is specific to the prophecies in this Book of the Revelation. But the shadow of this theme is still present and relevant – ‘do not add to My Word or diminish it’, says our Father. And again the question presents itself – what constitutes adding to or take away?
” So you shall observe to do just as the LORD your God has commanded you; you shall not turn aside to the right or to the left.” (Deu 5:32) ” “You shall walk in all the way which the LORD your God has commanded you, that you may live, and that it may be well with you, and that you may prolong your days in the land which you shall possess.” (Deu 5:33) ” “Now this is the commandment, the statutes and the judgments which the LORD your God has commanded me to teach you, that you might do them in the land where you are going over to possess it,” (Deu 6:1)
If we take just these passages alone, we see the command to ‘not add to or take away from’ is in direct reference to the body of commandments and directives by God to His people. This is a very simple concept and yet we have somehow complicated it beyond reasonable comprehension. We have expanded this directive to the extreme point of making it ‘unlawful’ and ‘sinful’ if we do anything that is not expressly mandated in Scripture. On the other hand, when we impose and enforce as Scripture, such customs, traditions and practices that are not directed in The Word, we have ‘added to’ and have violated the very Word of God we purport to follow.
For examples . . . is there anything Biblical wrong with worshiping on the first day of the week, or any other day for that matter. The answer is ‘no, it is not wrong’. The error enters in when we attempt to impose and enforce that practice as a Scriptural mandate or present any other day as a substitute for the Biblical sabbath. Therein, we have both added to and taken from. Is there anything Scripturally wrong, sinful, for observing secular or national holidays? As long as these customary celebrations are not pagan in their conception and have not become idolatrous in our observance of them, the Biblical answer to that question is ‘no, it is not a sin’.
‘Sin’ is transgression of God’s Law. (1 John 3:4) If God’s Law does not prohibit a particular practice or custom, then no one else has the right to prohibit or forbid. If God’s Law says something is sinful, we do not have the right to allow or dismiss it as permissible. If a woman chooses to wear a head-covering, there is nothing in Scripture to forbid or prohibit that choice. But when we impose and attempt to enforce that tradition as a Scriptural mandate, we are in error and in violation of The Word. If we desire to acknowledge Purim or Channukah or Thanksgiving or July 4th or Israel’s Independence Day, is that recognition a sin? No . . . unless we require that observance as part of someone’s supposed ‘Biblically mandated walk’ . . . then, that requirement becomes ‘sin’ because we have just ‘added to’ The Word of God. On the other hand, if we condemn and demean folks and past judgment on a person’s motive and agenda and heart for their observance, we have once again violated Scripture.
You know, from a practical standpoint, the Bible does not tell me to brush my teeth, press my clothes, that it is permissible to eat with a fork or drink my tea with a straw. Therefore, because there is not a direct command to do these things, is it a sin to do them? No, it is not. Therefore, it is permissible to do these things. And, on the other side of this coin, if I tell you that in order to be acceptable to our Father, you must do these things, that would be a sin . . . a sin of addition.
The Word is not too hard . . . let’s not make it that way. Shalom